Kiwis set to gain better and fairer access to ACC

  • Hon Carmel Sepuloni

The Maternal Birth Injuries and Other Matters Amendment Bill has passed its first reading in the House.

“Tens of thousands of New Zealanders stand to benefit from the Bill which reverses changes made to ACC legislation by the previous Government and extends cover for women who suffer from injuries while giving birth,” ACC Minister Carmel Sepuloni said.

“In 2010, the previous Government, in a bid to reduce costs, made changes to ACC which restricted access to cover and entitlements. This Government is committed to returning ACC to its original purpose of assisting all New Zealanders who have had an injury. Today, we are taking the first step by reversing some of those changes to ensure Kiwis receive fair access.”

“The proposed changes, will make it easier for workers, such as firefighters and sawmill staff, who might suffer from work-related gradual process injuries to work through a claim for compensation.

“The changes will give much more certainty to those workers who make claims for this type of injury.

“The test to establish work-related injury was changed in 2010 meaning the burden of gathering evidence appeared to be placed on the workers. This put some people off making a claim. We want people with injuries to be able to make a claim and that is why the Government is proposing to clearly put the onus back on ACC to produce evidence that a disease or infection is not work-related,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Another group of New Zealanders set to benefit under the proposed changes is women who experience injury during childbirth. The Government wants to amend ACC legislation to cover more injuries caused by childbirth, a step which will benefit an estimated 17,000 to 18,000 women each year.

“We know 85 per cent of women in New Zealand may experience an injury during childbirth. It is a matter of fairness that these injuries, which can be severe, are covered by ACC. This will also help address the gender imbalance that we currently see with fewer women making claims than men,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

The other changes of note include:

  • Reducing the threshold for injury-related hearing loss cover from six per cent to five per cent. This ensures claimants receive the care they need, while maintaining a fair baseline for coverage.
  • Requiring ACC take into account what someone earned before they were unable to work, when determining if they can return to work. This means certainty for claimants that their pre-incapacity earnings will be considered when supporting their return to a suitable job.
  • Increasing the number of ACC Board members from eight to nine allowing a wider range of specialist and stakeholder representation.

People are being encouraged to have their say on the changes through the Select Committee process early next year.

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